Monthly Archives: April 2011

TASOAE: 054

Family Circus is one of my least favorite comics. It’s aggressively inoffensive, and it’s one of the tragic examples of a work being passed on from parent to child as if it were some sort of sequential art dynasty. The comic never had more to it than “aren’t childish malapropisms cute?” Its only redeeming feature is the occasional Sunday comic depicting Billy’s dotted-line path of mayhem through the neighborhood.

From time to time, I would half-jokingly tear a particularly bad Family Circus from the paper I was reading, to prevent any heirs of that particular newspaper from having to read it.

TASOAE: 053

Baur-Sames-Bogart Hall, or BSB, is a three-story residence hall on campus. For two years, I (and Cthulhu) lived in the basement next to the radio station. The top three floors were used to house freshmen; the third floor was women-only, while the other two were for men. BSB and the other freshman dorms had a lot of wall paintings in the hallways; it was traditional to paint something and leave it behind for posterity. I have no idea what that painting there is, but it kind of looks like the Screw Attack powerup from Metroid.

PO(r)TA(l)T(w)O

Valve Software advertised their release of Portal 2 using an Alternate Reality Game, or ARG. A series of puzzles led to a game that encouraged players to play a set of indie games in order to release the game early. The players participated, and Portal 2 was released 10 hours early.

A lot of people are upset about this.

At first I was really confused about how angry people were acting, even accounting for the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Valve had put together a cool set of puzzles, offered a bunch of indie games for cheap, and then actually gave players a real-world reward for playing. However, I’ve realized that the displeasure the ARG created is due to a classic problem in game design: miscommunication leading to false expectations.
Continue reading PO(r)TA(l)T(w)O

Convergence

I was recently linked to “Convergence,” the first game by a group called Streetlight Studios. It’s a Flash game about growing up and making choices; it could be described as a mix of “Passage,” “Pathways,” and “How to Raise a Dragon,” which is a pretty amazing combination.

The game asks you to follow a character from infancy to old age, making choices along the way. Infancy makes you crawl around your house as a baby getting toys before your sibling, in an odd exploration platformy way. Adulthood has you balancing love and work; I’m glad that they didn’t make this drag on too long. Shades of “Every Day the Same Dream” here. Old age, at least in the ending I got, was more of a little vignette to cap off the choices made in the rest of the game.

Looking up at my description, this game sounds like a mixing-together of various art games, and it’s definitely inspired by the work others have done before, but the polish and design in “Convergence” makes it feel fresh. Definitely something to check out for fans of blocky pixel games about life and choices.

TASOAE: 052

There was a ghastly rule for pet ownership in the dorms at Rose: the pet had to be “flushable.” In other words, if it died, it needed to be possible to dispose of it down the toilet. I’m sure the official rule was gentler: “small pets only,” say. Very few people had pets, though. It’s a bit rude to keep a pet with a roommate unless it’s something like a fish that’s silent and rather odorless.

Don’t ask me what’s up with the perspective on the background. Let’s just pretend that Tony’s fell aura is distorting the very laws of space and time.

TASOAE: 051

And the new year begins. This comic would have appeared in the Freshman Issue of the Thorn. Freshmen got an abbreviated issue of the paper in their orientation packets, which presented an interesting problem for my comic; I had to introduce readers to the comic without leaving anything out for non-Freshmen. Additionally, I was shifting the focus of the comic this year, which made it trickier. Finally, I just went for a quick cast intro. At this point, I evidently decided that the Civil Chick (Cthulhu’s name, not mine) was a major character. Absent are Cthulhu’s former roommates: the hapless guy and the grumpy Christian.

Cassie and Brynne are the first named characters in the strip. Cassie’s hairdo got simplified from this design; it was too overwrought. A triple major was not unheard of; more than one student in my year pursued such a feat. CS/EE/ME is a decent way to go. I don’t think you were allowed to do Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. Too much overlap there for them to justify awarding three separate Bachelor’s.

There was no Black Magic degree program at Rose. It was strictly a minor. I took some artistic license.

Character Progression in F.E.A.R.

An enemy from F.E.A.R. seen through the scope of a sniper rifleI’ve resumed writing for GameSetWatch. My latest column just went live; it’s called Character Progression in F.E.A.R., and it’s about how increasing the player character’s options instead of increasing their strength can prevent a game from feeling flat.

F.E.A.R. was an odd game for me. The shooting part was fun and pretty and it was just the right amount of difficulty (or sometimes a bit too hard), but the rest of the game was… not very interesting. The horror elements rarely grabbed me, the story was almost pastiche, and the dramatic twists were clear to me after the first level. That’s not even bringing up one of the most offensive video game characters in recent memory. Hey, it’s a fat guy! And he’ll get bumbling clown music! And you’ll know that you’re about to meet him again when you see food wrappers scattered around. Seriously.

So while F.E.A.R. is technically advanced for its time and well-designed from a gameplay perspective, I was ready for it to be over about halfway through. And that’s never a situation you want a player to be in.

TASOAE: 050

Cthulhu eats/exploits people. Featureless White Void. And an end to my sophomore year.

When I returned to cartooning in the fall, I realized that I’d hit a bit of a rut with the comic. Year 3 will start with a rather drastic shift in focus.